It is now widely recognized that our current food production is insufficient to keep up with the population growth expected in the next three decades, so alternative meat products are being developed.
But at a time when some food industry startups are trying to eliminate animals from the food chain, a company that deals with the traditional meat industry is a rarity.
Lumachain aims to become the industry standard for beef, chicken and pork products worldwide.
“It’s a $1.5 trillion a year global industry that helps feed the world,” company founder and CEO Jamila Gordon told TechCrunch. “Each plant is a big business in itself. It can have anywhere from 500 employees to a thousand employees per shift. We failed to create the computer vision and artificial intelligence technology that will help change the industry.”
That’s Lumchain’s goal: to help the global meat industry innovate and solve some of the key challenges it faces, including staff shortages, the impact of inflation and high operating costs, supply chain disruptions, and to keep meatpacking plants operating as they did in the 50s. years ago.
Supply chain disruptions have worsened during the pandemic, and meat is a perishable product with a short shelf life, and if it’s stuck somewhere and out of sight, it could mean hundreds of thousands of pounds of meat being thrown away, Gordon explained. .
A native of Somalia who moved to Australia as a displaced person during the Somali Civil War, Gordon’s first job out of college was cooking in a Japanese restaurant where the chef took her under his tutelage to learn the trade. Although she earned a degree in computer science and later worked for companies such as IBM and as chief information officer for Qantas Airways, her passion continued to be in the food industry.
The innovations Gordon has observed in the food industry are more “incremental than transformational.” That’s why she believes artificial intelligence should help employees be better. She even gave a TED talk about it.
Lumachain was founded in 2018 to use computer vision-based artificial intelligence to transform meatpacking operations. It has five products in the categories of safety, yield, quality, efficiency and traceability.
The company installs cameras around the plant to identify potential safety hazards and provide training and coaching opportunities for plant managers, who often have 50 employees. AI will send real-time alerts to the manager so they can focus on those who need extra help instead of monitoring each employee individually.
In addition, during COVID, customers knew where their containers were at any given time and, if there was a possibility of spoilage, could reroute products to other endpoints to avoid loss.
“Since we talked about understaffing, you want your staff to be the best and offer real-time coaching and training,” Gordon said. “Traceability creates the kind of transparency that helps our customers track their food from farm to fork and know where their product is at any given time.”
Since its inception four years ago, Lumachain’s approach has caught on among meat companies. Today, it operates in eight countries, and its technology supplies just under 50% of the U.S. meat supply, Gordon said.
The Sydney-based and now Denver-based company today announced $19.5 million in Series A funding to continue to accelerate its global AI platform and expand its team in the United States. Next year, the company expects to increase its team here to about 30 people. Its global team consists of more than 100 people.
The financing was provided by Bessemer Venture Partners with participation from existing investor Main Sequence. In July 2019, Lumachain raised US$2.5 million for a total funding of US$22 million.
“We’re not looking for other new customers, but instead we’re expanding our existing customers,” Gordon said. “The next steps are to expand and become the global industry standard.”